Getty’s photo embed service may not be as free as you think

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March 17, 2014
Getty’s photo embed service may not be as free as you think.

thumbnailYay! More free pictures! We can now use millions of Getty-owned photos for free on our websites, blogs and social media channels (as long as it’s not for commercial purposes).

Getty’s new offering is promising at first glance. Their description of “commercial purposes” is actually pretty lenient. However, a closer look at the program brings up some other, rather serious implications.


Anyone who needs images to persist indefinitely, even designers posting newsy (here today, ancient history tomorrow) stories, are encouraged to take a long, close look at Getty’s terms of use before proceeding.

Don’t be alarmed by the dry and lengthy legalese; there are really only two paragraphs (at the moment) that refer to the embed feature: just scroll down to the subhead, “Embedded Viewer”.

My first question was, “May I resize or crop an image?” There was no mention about resizing or cropping, but I discovered a couple of other interesting items.

For one thing, “…availability may change without notice.” So an image in a post on my blog may suddenly vanish, and I won’t be aware of it unless I check back. Nice to know.

Then there was:

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

It seems fair that they don’t have to compensate us, since we don’t compensate them… but the fact that they can (and apparently plan to) place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer further limits where and how one would want to use the feature.

Bottom line

Getty’s Embedded Viewer could be a useful tool when you need images and don’t mind the branding, but not for anything you expect to persist for more than a very short time.

A little below the bottom line: expect a likely undercurrent associated with use of the viewer; peers (and even some normal humans) who spot the Getty Images branding below the image may regard it as a “budget photo”, possibly degrading the value of your site, and of you.

The core population to whom Getty seems to be targeting the feature is those who have been knowingly or unknowingly abusing intellectual copyrights.

The feature is a fabulous boon pretty much only for those posting newsy stories to the web who don’t mind the Getty-branded copy, and who have no interest in evergreen content.

From my test drive

If you do decide this feature is right for a project, make sure to search only for images that Getty has indicated are ok to embed. From Getty’s Embed Images landing page, I clicked the text link, Search images available to embed. The parameters didn’t show a specific option to search only embeddable images, but rather had the Rights Managed and Royalty Free options checked (which may be, at least for now, how they are grouping available images).

Also, contrary to rumor, the photos do resize if you mess about with the height and width tags in the embed code (as mentioned above, there was nothing in the terms of use forbidding this). They actually resize rather intelligently. Reducing just the width value by half caused the entire image to resize proportionately inside the resized iframe. In that way, Getty are my kind of design nazis: no way is anyone going to mess with their photo’s aspect ratio. Period. Cropping, on the other hand, is not recommended for a variety of reasons.

Featured image/thumbnail, uses editorial image via Shutterstock.

Penina Finger

Penina Finger is passionate about design, real brand and community. She owns the Fantastic Machine design studio and is also a partner at H1Talent. Feel free to say hi, ask questions and debate ideas with her on Twitter @peninasharon.

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